The Ultimate Guide to Business Casual for Men

Business casual has become a popular dress code for men. However, there is a lot of confusion about what to wear and what to ditch.  We all know that business isn’t something you should be casual about, but business moguls like Mark Zuckerberg have redefined business fashion sense and more people are adopting this style of dressing.

The detailed guide will help you determine where your company falls and how you can adjust your outfits to suit your work environment.

History of Business Casual

Business casual first started in the 1980s in the Silicon Valley. The idea came about as a result of small, predominantly male companies that gave priority to results instead of the processes. They spent most of their time on computers. The phrase business casual was to inculcate a work culture where inclusivity was essential.

At the time, casual wear was only meant for the weekends. However, a company that made Hawaiian shirts thought of an idea to increase their profits and in came the concept of Aloha Fridays. They appealed to companies to allow employees to wear the Hawaiian shirt on Fridays. The idea picked up and became a trend.

Levis in the early 1990s took notice of the trend. They were also dealing with complaints of their employees dressing too casually, as they would wear t-shirts and shorts to work.  The company thought it would be an excellent idea to market Dockers, a new brand that focused on khaki pants. Employees supported the khaki pants and saw it as a compromise between suits and shorts.

The company began marketing chinos, polo shirts, and sports shirts as a perfect option for a casual Friday. Companies like Crew, Ralph Lauren, and Brooks Brothers jumped onboard and saw a chance to increase their casual wear sales.

What Does Business Casual Mean Today?

Business casual is a less formal dress code than typical business attire, but still professional for an office setup. It’s essential to note that business casual for men is not a sloppy, home-like look, it’s a look created for business purposes.

The concept is to project a professional image while being comfortable in a casual outfit.  It’s essential to be relaxed, but still appear well-groomed and neat.  Business casual for men doesn’t mean you should wear the same clothes you would to a friend’s birthday or when going to a bar. With this dress code, you’re looking to dress down a business outfit. Blending contemporary with the classic is the modern business casual.

What to Wear

If you’re looking for some tips on what to wear to ensure that you look professional, comfortable, and stylish, here are some guidelines on what you need to wear to achieve a business casual look.

Jackets

A jacket is more like a blazer but works for those days you want to relax and distress. The trick is to go for a dark color and a quality fabric like cotton or wool instead of shiny nylon.  To balance up the whole look, you may need to wear a button-up shirt and some chinos instead of casual jeans. Dark denim jackets and chore jackets can also be perfect for the office.

If you’re creative enough, you can add a pocket square to enhance your outfit. You only need to ensure that it blends well with all the colors you are wearing, or you could end up looking quite silly.

Sweaters

During winter, a sweater is an excellent addition to your blazer or sports coat.  You can wear the sweater over a collared shirt for a casual Friday. Stay away from sweaters with weird patterns or anything with a thick gauge like the cable knit sweaters.

Opt for sweaters that have a classic aesthetic, but still look sophisticated. Add a shawl neck cardigan to your wardrobe as you can wear it multiple times. Furthermore, they are comfortable and are made of good quality material.

The best knit needs to stay under the jacket, but be enough to hold its place. Choose a sweater that sits at the belt line length, a slim fit, and one that comes in block colors. Cardigans work best with a tie and are a fantastic blazer replacement.  Remember to leave the bottom two buttons undone to enhance your look.

Shirts

The right shirt can make or break your outfit.  You’ll find that most men have ill-fitting shirts, especially on the shoulders. Check to see if a particular shirt fits from the neck to the waist. The shoulders should be the next area to assess. Make sure that the space between the neck and the collar fits two fingers and that the cuff meets at the thumb joint.

Dress shirts come in three main types mainly slim, regular, and relaxed. Slim fit shits are more popular in the male fashion world, but they do not suit everyone.  A relaxed fit works best if your body type doesn’t allow a slim fit or in situations where you’re working in a conservative environment.

A white dress shirt is a must-have as it flatters your business casual outfit. Don’t be afraid to experiment with a patterned shirt if you’re not pairing it with a blazer. 

An oxford shirt is a timeless design that comes in different patterns and colors.  You might need to start with solid colors like light blue and white and move into checks, stripes, or gingham versions. Afterward, you can experiment with bold and brighter colors.

Pants

Comfort should meet style when it comes to business casual.  Pants are essential in completing an outfit.  Also, they help express your style no matter what environment you’re in. Finding the right fit not only applies to the waist, but it also applies to the pant break.

The pant break is where the pants meet the shoe. You don’t want to look like you’re swimming in the trousers.  A half break or a quarter break works better and look tidier than a full break.

Manufacturers have different cuts for pants. The common ones are skinny, slim, athletic, regular, and relaxed fit cuts.

It’s critical to have a range of casual trousers and slacks as this ensures that you are well prepared for Monday meetings and casual Fridays where you want something comfortable and fitted. Chinos work well for informal environments. Your chinos should not be too long or too short.

Stick to a brand that works for you in regard to fit and colors. This will keep all your pairs look polished.  However, you’ll need to pair them with a different blazer to elevate your work outfit. During the colder months of the year, corduroy pants would be ideal, but use the same rule with pairing chinos.

Select a slim fit and stick with classic colors like camel and navy blue. Minimize your cropped trousers and instead invest in regular length trousers as trends go out of fashion. Also, stay away from skinny trousers.

Jeans may work for some people based on their company’s policies.  When selecting jeans, opt for dark wash denim that is damage free and well cut. Wearing jeans in the right way can make the look workplace friendly.  Remember that you don’t want to appear sloppy as your business casual look should make you appear polished.

Always pair your jeans with smart, but sophisticated pieces. Derby shoes, an oxford shirt, and a blazer on a single color will elevate your look to an office-appropriate level.

Flat front or charcoal dress pants work well for business casual wear. Greys and solid navy also work well when neatly tucked. Don’t forget to add a sports jacket or blazer to complete the look.

Shoes

When choosing a shoe, remember leather is always better for quality. Oxblood, brown, black, and tan are excellent color choices. You could also experiment with color or go for a suede shoe in summer.

Dress shoe classics work best for business casual footwear.  Brogues, loafers, and oxfords are great for the office and will complement your entire outfit.  Chukka or Chelsea boots allow you to get more creative and are fantastic depending on the weather and outing. Never opt to go sockless or wear anything that shows your toes like sandals.

Bags

Choosing the right bag for your business casual outfits should not be daunting. Backpacks although easy to carry and convenient, make you look like a college boy. You can choose a black or brown bag, whichever works for you. A sleek, classic or a modern style bag is available in different price ranges.

The messenger bag has a satchel-esque aesthetic and cross-body capability, and it’s a fantastic addition to your ensemble.  Avoid a bag with a long strap that goes beyond your waistline as this only gives you a sloppy look.

When it comes to fabric, a leather bag is a classic complement to your ensemble. However, if leather is too heavy or expensive, you can opt for a canvas, tweed, or a suede bag.  When going for color, stick to an array of shades like black, grey, navy, and burgundy.  Bold colors like yellow and white can be a perfect choice depending on the bag’s fabric and quality.

Do not forget to buy a bag that matches the number of daily essentials.  A pouch would work for you if you only carry a few documents. For those who carry tablets and books, a tote or a messenger bag would work best.

Business Casual Style Tips

Although the business casual style is meant to be fun, yet classic, often time’s men take this to mean baggy trousers, ill-fitting shirts, and horrible blazers. Here are some essential tips on the dos and don’ts when it comes to business casual dress code.

Do Get the Right Fit

Nothing appears untidy and rushed like ill-fitting clothes. Some men focus on baggy clothes that only make them look twice their age.  Also, some will wear clothes that are too tight which could interfere with their movement.  You need to find clothes that are smart and fit correctly.

Do Invest in the Basics

You need to invest in basics once you’ve nailed the fit.  Start with pieces that easy to mix, to get the most value for money. Choose your essentials carefully to enjoy versatility for those mornings that you want something to wear quickly.

A blazer is a must-have in your closet.  Three jackets that will have you covered in winter, summer, and any temperature in between. A navy-blue classic blazer in light wool and with a single breast design is one basic jacket. Ensure that it has notch or peak lapels.  The color instantly upgrades any look and flatters your physique.

Beige pure cotton blazers give you a cool, yet warm feel in the office. The color works well during summer, and it’s an excellent blazer to help you stand out from the crowd.  For a cool morning, you want something toned down, yet flattering. A grey tweed blazer adds texture and blend well with other fabrics.

Do Keep the Denim Rip-Free and Dark

Denim is not off-limits as long as you know how to wear it, you need to stick with a dark wash and choose a pair with a slim cut. You could also pair your jeans with a blazer or an oxford shirt to avoid being overly casual. Avoid wider-leg styles or skinny jeans.

Keep it Simple

Often time’s men try so hard to dress and look the part.  Unfortunately, they only end up looking shabby and cheap. Avoid wearing too many watches or rings. Also, stay away from bold-colored items. Opt for simple, subtle outfits that will help you stand out.

Don’t Overdo the Sneakers

It’s easy to want to impress with the latest pair of Nike or Jordan sneakers. However, you’re better off keeping the sneakers for your weekends. Stick to shoes with a streamlined silhouette at the office. Monk straps, brogues, and oxfords reflect a casual, yet business look.  Experiment with chukkas or loafers for a different look.

Don’t Over Accessorize

Although accessories are a great way to add personality to your wardrobe, avoid overdoing it as too many accessories could ruin the whole attire.  Less is more when it comes to accessories.  You can stick to a classic watch and ditch the tie.

Don’t Forget Patterned Shirts

While a basic white shirt is an essential in your wardrobe, you’re allowed to experiment with patterned shirts.  Patterned shirts add depth to your outfit and work well when you’re not wearing a blazer. Avoid bright-colored and fluorescent shirts as they look cheap and tacky.

Don’t Forget the Socks

A business formal dress code doesn’t allow for bold colored socks, and most men choose navy or black socks. However, with business casual, you can incorporate a colorful pair to show personality and add creativity.

It’s critical to note that casual doesn’t mean sloppy. You still need to get the right fit of clothes and make sure that your color game is on point.  Take into consideration your face shape and body type when you dress up.  When in doubt, lean towards formality. Sometimes you can get away with wearing polos and rolling up your sleeves for a business casual look.

Conclusion

Business casual combines the aspects of casual and formal attire to create a stunning appearance that will enhance your look. The above business casual style tips will help you determine the right pieces to invest in.

Always treat business casual outfits like a pair that is business on one side and casual on the other end. Your outfit should be somewhere between and not focus on one side. Always remember that dressing for the office doesn’t have to be boring. Find ways to add some personality to your outfits but ensure that the look is appropriate for the type of work you do.

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